Leveraging data analytics has become crucial for businesses in the travel trade to maintain competitiveness and foster customer loyalty – so what’s stopping APAC travel companies?

Images of exotic, far-flung destinations have been travel marketers’ staples for over a century, but today’s landscape will require them to be more grounded. 

Although demand for international travel is soaring in Asia, local travel brands are in fierce competition with international airlines, online booking agents and even influencers to secure customer bookings. Maintaining a competitive edge means having a robust understanding of tourists’ demands, desires and preferences: and that is only achievable through data.

Unfortunately, despite the upsurge of data-driven marketing over the past decade, Asia Pacific’s local travel companies are failing to harness data. Many remain challenged by a shortage of talented data analysts and scientists. Few are leveraging emerging data analytics tools and technologies, despite their increased accessibility and affordability.

As such, many businesses are missing out on the travel industry’s growth due to a lack of investment in developing data skillsets.

It’s important to understand the level of opportunity available for travel brands in 2024. Last year saw a significant surge in international travel, particularly in Asia, with 90% of Singaporean travellers, for instance, planning trips abroad from March to May 2024. 

In tandem, there has been a resurgence of business travel across APAC, with projected spending to reach US$567 billion in 2023 and expected to rise to $800 billion by 2027.

Travel is so valuable for Singaporeans that many will cut back spending elsewhere to take the perfect holiday. Although some may take holidays for shorter lengths than previously planned or vacation closer to home, they will still make the most of any leave time available. Indeed, 80% of Singaporeans plan to remain in Asia, with Seoul, Bangkok and Hong Kong, China marking the top destinations between March and May this year. This uplift in travel across Asia presents numerous opportunities for all areas of the travel industry. Understanding industry data will help boutique brands plan their budgets while delivering delightful and memorable experiences that their customers will never forget.

With data analytics, local travel brands can create profiles of different travellers. Recent research, for example, has divided 2024’s travellers into four groups: luxury loyalists, urban traditionalists, eco-friendly families and remote value-seekers. Bearing in mind each group’s preferred travel method, accommodation and activities, travel brands can create a hyper-personalised experience or itinerary that feeds off both their own curated data and local knowledge. 

Personalised touches, such as flowers in a couple’s suite or recommendations for fun adventure activities for young families, make all the difference in the traveller’s likelihood of recommending a particular brand.

Having robust data also allows a travel business to fully leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI). Challenging processes like finding the best deal on flights and putting together the perfect package within a set of dates can be solved by AI. This leaves the customer with a most personalised experience at a speed unparalleled by human capacity.

Letting data find its wings

For data analytics to be effective, information needs to be clean, compliant and actionable. Using data to build deep customer profiles requires time, effort and investment – all of which are met by a high return.

A good start would be to collect and collate data from various sources and systems. These can be first-party – bookings, inquiries and purchases – or third-party from online browsing. Once all this is in place, a business can start to understand customer patterns.

To do this, a business may want to hire capable data managers and analysts. However, as mentioned, Asia is still hampered by an ongoing talent shortage in the digital skills market. As such, building this resource within your business may not be immediately attainable.

Data analytics technology, on the other hand, is well-available and much more affordable for budget-conscious brands. These platforms can help brands navigate customers’ preferences, intents and budgets. 

Data analytics platforms can also identify key trends and insights into the travel market, allowing brands to forecast future trends and avoid potential risks. 

Asia’s travel industry has the potential to soar in 2024: so let data be your guide to navigate it.